MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — When it appeared West Virginia’s unrelenting press wasn’t doing enough to stop an inexperienced Kansas State team, Jaysean Paige stepped up and took matters into his own hands.
“We wanted to try and lift him as much as we could lift him so he could get it at the rim,” West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said. “He’s our best athlete, and he’s gotten better and better and better as the season’s gone on.”
Paige scored 20 of his 25 points after halftime, Tarik Phillip connected on a floater with 4.5 seconds left in the second overtime and No. 19 West Virginia toughed out an 87-83 victory on Saturday in the Big 12 opener for both teams.
Phillip finished with 14 points and five assists for the Mountaineers (12-1, 1-0) and Daxter Miles Jr. had 10 points.
“We have good guys,” Huggins said. “We don’t shoot it very straight, we don’t pass it very well, we don’t do some other things, but they are good guys. They’re good to coach.”
Two free throws by Kansas State’s D.J. Johnson with 22 seconds left in regulation sent the game to overtime where the teams traded scores but couldn’t break the tie. The Mountaineers then connected on 8 of 9 free throws and the big-time floater from Phillip late in the shot clock to seal the victory.
Barry Brown led Kansas State (10-3, 0-1) with a career-high 20 points on 6-of-12 shooting while Wesley Iwundu, Kamau Stokes and Dean Wade combined for 44 points on 14-of-29 shooting.
“We had chances,” Wildcats coach Bruce Weber said. “Our guys gave us a chance to win. We compete with Top 25 teams, but we have to find a way to beat one of them.”
After the Wildcats extended their one-point halftime lead to six midway through second half, Paige pulled West Virginia even with 4:08 to play and then gave the visitors a 69-67 lead with 1:07 to play. Johnson forced overtime with his free throws.
West Virginia’s press went against Kansas State’s defensive-minded efforts on the perimeter in the first half. The result was 24 fouls and 15 turnovers in the opening 20 minutes, in addition to a handful of calls that left Huggins and Weber irate.
Kansas State used an 11-1 run to take a 24-15 lead with 7:59 left in the first half. But West Virginia rattled off 12 quick points to retake the lead. A tough drive by Carlbe Ervin II gave Kansas State a 34-33 halftime lead.
“There’s just no bottom in this league,” Huggins said. “That’s what makes it so hard. With a lot of leagues, there’s a bottom, but this has no bottom. And the coaching in this league is incredible.”
West Virginia’s win was the first double-overtime game ever played in Bramlage Coliseum.
Kansas State and West Virginia combined for 53 fouls, several of which were touch fouls that Big 12 officials are looking to crack down on this season.
“You’ve got 10 big, strong, fast, long guys in a very confined area,” Huggins said. “They’re going to bump into each other. That’s a given. There’s no way around it. Everyone wants to get back to the old days — well, if we want to get back to the old days, then we need to put a height and length limit and let the centers be 6-foot-5.”
West Virginia: The Mountaineers have shot 40 percent or better in every game this season. … West Virginia is 138-30 under Huggins when outrebounding its opponent.
Kansas State: The Wildcats lost at home for the first time this season after an 8-0 start. … Kansas State was 7 of 17 at the free throw line in the first half and finished 28 of 43 for the game.
West Virginia: At TCU on Monday.
Kansas State: At Texas on Tuesday.